Africa, like the rest of the world, urgently awaits the provision of COVID-19 vaccines to her population. While it will take time for all Africans to get vaccinated, governments are keen to make the most vulnerable and high-risk populations the first recipients. They include health workers, older generations, and teachers, among others.
Almost a year since the continent’s first case of COVID-19, the far-reaching and colossal toll of the pandemic remains a nightmare for education systems. Schools are strained for resources in fulfilling the preventive regulations such as hand washing, wearing of masks and social distancing.
Even though most school systems have now reopened, impromptu closures to react to new infections have disrupted the progression of the academic year.
In The Gambia, the National Development Plan 2018-2021 by the Investment and Export Promotion Agency highlights that less than 4% of the population have internet access and only 40% of the population owns a television, while there are 8 community radio stations and one national radio station covering the whole country.
New technologies require smart phones, tablets and internet connection - all cost-prohibitive in the country. Consequently, the measures recommended to weather the pandemic remain inadequate to ensure quality education. This is also the case in many other African countries.
How to prepare for the next crisis
With the administration of several vaccines under way, we may slowly see the end of this pandemic, but there are fears that this was just a dress rehearsal, and other generalized infections and pandemics could follow. We must be prepared, and this is how to do it.
Schools, often seen as learning and feeding facilities for children, should adopt several aspects of COVID-19 precautionary measures into permanent best practices. These include the provision of hand washing and sanitation points throughout the school premises.
Also useful would be thermometer readings of students to screen children who may be sick. Class sizes should be reduced to obtain safe distances between students. If this brings about loss of accommodation because of student numbers, multiple class attendance shifts should be considered.